Lloyd Constantine on debit card fees Bank of America justifies its new $5 per month fee for debit card holders as a way to recover funds lost from new regulations that have "changed the economics of the cards." Other banks have taken similar measures, but "the banks' simplistic statements are merely an attempt to rationalize and obfuscate one of the largest illegal transfers of wealth from consumers to banks in American history," writes commercial litigator Lloyd Constantine in The New York Times. Debit cards were conceived to replace personal checks, and banks save money on check processing when customers use them. Even so, banks designed them to look like credit cards and charged retailers similar fees on transactions "despite the fact that purchases made with a debit card didn't involve a loan from the bank, posed very little fraud risk and were extravagantly profitable to banks because they eliminated the costs of processing and clearing checks." In 1996, Constantine litigated an anti-trust suit that resulted in a settlement of of $3.4 billion paid to plaintiffs and federal requirements lowering the transaction fees. The Dodd-Frank law attempted to further lower the fees, but to counteract the losses, banks are implementing new fees. They are legally free to do this, but in a market economy, consumers can punish companies for raising prices, as they have with Netflix in recent months, and Constantine says consumers should do the same here. "Retail customers of Bank of America and of any other bank that follows its lead should swiftly move their business."
John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Mark Kirk, and Marco Rubio on Libya When four Republican senators visited Tripoli, last week, they found it "surprisingly secure and orderly." The senators "walked through Martyrs' Square, where Libyans cheered and thanked America and our NATO allies," write John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Mark Kirk, and Marco Rubio in The Wall Street Journal. "It is in our national interest for Libya to consolidate the gains of its revolution, and in the critical months ahead we must deepen our support for the Libyan people," they write. Most immediately, America can provide medical assistance to the Libyans, overwhelmed with patients wounded in the months of war. The Transitional National Council has said it will reimburse the United States, which could send a medical ship or transport patients to our medical facilities in Europe. America can also help secure Libya by aiding them as they safeguard weapon stockpiles, unite militias under the TNC authority, and train a civilian security force. We can aid their democratic transition, offering the help of our NGOs to monitor elections and draft a constitution. "Americans have had their disagreements over the U.S. intervention in Libya," the senators write. "What remains is an enormous opportunity for the U.S. to build a partnership with a democratic and pro-American Libya that contributes to the expansion of security, prosperity and freedom across a pivotal region at a time of revolutionary change."